The biggest Pendleton housing development in recent memory breezed through the Pendleton Planning Commission and is on its way to break ground this summer.
Representatives for I & E Construction of Clackamas went before the commission Thursday to ask for several zoning variances for their Westgate Apartments project.
Among their requests was that the city relax its density requirements for the development; the 204-unit apartment complex is spread across 9.25 acres, meaning its density is higher than the 18-unit-per-acre limit.
The property wraps around the remains of the Eastern Oregon Training Center like a claw, with Blue Mountain Community College to the north and Eastern Oregon Correctional Institution to the south.
Mark Grenz, an engineer representing I & E, said the difference between the northeastern corner of the property and Westgate is about 100 feet. Although the steep grade of much of Pendleton’s terrain has been an impediment to development in the past, Grenz said I & E should be able to work through it.
Grenz weathered only a few basic questions from the commission, and Community Development Director Tim Simons said the city, which owns the Westgate property, endorses the project.
“Our housing studies show that this is a needed amenity. We were given the property by the state,” he said. “The state of Oregon gave it to us with the intent for us either using it for additional housing or economic development of some type, so we felt like this meets that requirement.”
I & E’s proposal didn’t receive any public opposition before the commission unanimously voted to approve the company’s application, which isn’t a given for a multi-family housing project.
In 2012 and 2013, the Pendleton Heights subdivision on Tutuilla Road received backlash over concerns that it would turn into low-income housing and wouldn’t fill its townhouses. The project ended up moving forward and has received approval from the city to proceed with an additional 100-unit apartment complex.
In 2014, an apartment complex proposal on Northwest King Avenue got criticized by nearby residents who focused on its potential environmental and traffic impacts. The project was ultimately shelved.
What may have worked in I & E’s favor is that there aren’t any residences immediately surrounding the Westgate property.
Additionally, the project received endorsement letters from some local heavy hitters like Wildhorse Resort & Casino, the InterMountain Education Service District, Newly Weds Foods and Keystone RV Co., who all highlighted vacancies in their organizations and the need for new housing to help fill them.
The one area where the Westgate Apartments project did receive criticism was from a resident that complained that the city’s incentives package was too generous.
In addition to donating the land to I & E and halving its system development charges, the city could pay for a portion of the company’s property taxes through 2023.
The payment formula is based on the amount of vacant units divided by the number of completed units, but payments are only activated if the occupancy rate is below 95 percent. The incentive only applies to property taxes owed to the city.
I & E did not respond to a request for comment, but Simons said the company will build the complex in phases over the next 3-5 years and intends to break ground this summer.
Once complete, I & E’s plans call for a mix of studios and one-, two- and three-bedroom units.
I & E President Karl Ivanov has said that the average price of a unit at Westgate Apartments would be $1,200 per month.